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John Kerry’s Floor Statement on Inserting ANWR Drilling into Defense Appropriations Bill

by Pamela Leavey

I just finished watching John Kerry on C-Span speaking on the attempt by Senator Ted Stevens to inset ANWR drilling into Defense Appropriations Bill. His passion on this issue, as always, went beyond the as prepared text below.

Text as Prepared for Delivery:

Mr. President, the shame of what’s happening with the Defense Appropriations Bill is that this entire debate in unnecessary. It’s a strong, bipartisan bill that could and should have passed months ago. Yet here we are, just hours before the end of session, and our armed forces still don’t have their funding. For all the talk about supporting our troops, they’re not getting that support from Washington.

Senator McCain got it right when he called this maneuver on arctic drilling “disgusting.”

Let’s be very clear about what’s going on here. Republicans are putting oil companies ahead of our troops. They could have passed the Defense Appropriations Bill months ago. But first the White House, and now the Republican Leadership, decided other interests come before our troops. Their priorities are incredibly misplaced.

The Military Officer’s Association of America has said: “There is a possibility that negotiators might try to include a provision allowing oil-drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge in the bill…We’re concerned that insertion of any divisive, non-defense related issues at the last minute could further delay enactment of this crucial legislation. Both defense bills are urgently needed to support our military efforts. Congress is already three months late passing them, and needs to get off the dime.”

Yesterday, a group of five high-profile military officials sent the following letter to the Senate:

Dear Senator Frist and Senator Reid:

We are very concerned that the FY2006 Defense Appropriations Bill may be further delayed by attaching a controversial non-defense legislative provision to the defense appropriations conference report.

We know that you share our overarching concern for the welfare and needs of our troops. With 160,000 troops fighting in Iraq, another 18,000 in Afghanistan, and tens of thousands more around the world defending this country, Congress must finish its work and provide them the resources they need to do their job.

We believe that any effort to attach controversial legislative language authorizing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to the defense appropriations conference report will jeopardize Congress’ ability to provide our troops and their families the resources they need in a timely fashion.

The passion and energy of the debate about drilling in ANWR is well known, and a testament to vibrant debate in our democracy. But it is not helpful to attach such a controversial non-defense legislative issue to a defense appropriations bill. It only invites delay for our troops as Congress debates an important but controversial non-defense issue on a vital bill providing critical funding for our nation’s security.

We urge you to keep ANWR off the defense appropriations bill.

Sincerely,

Joseph P. Hoar, Anthony C. Zinni, General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), Claudia J. Kennedy, Lee F. Gunn, Lieutenant General, U.S. Army (Ret.), Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Stephen A. Cheney, Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)

Senator Stevens and all of us know that drilling in the Arctic Refuge has nothing to do with this critical defense legislation. Senator Stevens knows that just weeks ago, his proposal didn’t have the votes. Senator Stevens knows that his proposal will not pass in a stand-alone vote. Senator Stevens knows where our generals stand on this matter.

So what happens? The Republican leadership in this Congress breaks Senate rules to support this transparent attempt to attach arctic drilling to a bill that’s almost impossible to vote against. Is that how this Senate is going to work? Is it going to be the policy of this Senate to keep our troops waiting in order to keep special interests happy? What’s next? Medical malpractice? Immigration? Stem cell research? How long will our troops have to wait while Republican Senators attach unrelated, controversial bills that don’t have the votes and remain contentious in this body? What kind of precedent are we setting here?

Not long ago when Senator Stevens came to this floor to defend what some call his “bridge to nowhere,” he spoke about the importance of respecting the legislative process. I would urge him to go back and read what he said, heed his own words, and reconsider his decision to hold up this bill.

If he doesn’t, I fear we’re going to be here for quite a while. I intend to spend a lot of time talking about this. And if people want to call it a filibuster, that’s fine. What’s going on here isn’t right. Putting oil companies ahead of our troops isn’t right. And here and now, we have to establish the precedent that bills for our troops will not become vehicles for last minute, special interest pet project that in now way benefit the troops this bill is meant to serve.

This practice dishonors our troops, it dishonors this Senate – and in this particular instance, would lead to the destruction of one of America’s most treasured wildlife refuges.

There are some places that should be off-limits to oil drilling and industrial development, and the Arctic Refuge is one of them. The harm to wildlife habitat for polar bear, caribou, and millions of migratory birds would be permanent and irreparable. We have a moral responsibility to save wild places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for future generations. That’s why our country has remained committed to its protection for nearly 50 years.

And the bottom line is that drilling in the Refuge will not solve our energy problems. It is not worth damaging America’s greatest national wildlife refuge for what the U.S. Geological Survey says would be far less oil than the U.S. consumes in a single year. It’s a drop in the bucket. And even the oil companies admit none of the oil would reach the market for 10 years.

It’s misleading and untrue to say oil drilling won’t harm the environment, since the result would be a sprawling industrial complex of drilling sites spread throughout one and a half million acres of critical wildlife habitat. Hundreds of miles of pipelines and roads, airstrips, power lines and pumping stations and housing for workers would be needed, as well as tankers to transport this oil – risking further oil spills in critical habitat.

It comes down to this: we cannot drill our way to energy independence; we have to invent our way there. The best ways to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil are to conserve more, waste less, and develop more fuel-efficient cars so we use less oil and gas. Energy experts agree that making cars more fuel-efficient, and investing in renewable forms of energy, are the most effective things the U.S. can do right now to decrease dependence on foreign oil and increase national security.

It’s ironic that this debate over the Arctic Refuge has come down to a defense bill. Drilling supporters have been forced to resort to this desperate legislative maneuver precisely because this policy is insufficient to reduce the dependence on foreign oil that puts at risk the troops this defense bill is meant to serve.

So now — we find ourselves in a struggle between a great political tradition in the United States that seeks common ground so we can do the common good — and a new ethic that, on any given issue, will use any means to justify the end of absolute victory over whatever and whoever stands in the way.

The new view says if you don’t like the facts, just change them; if you can’t win playing by the rules, just rewrite them. The new view says if you can’t win a debate on the strength of your argument, demonize your opponents. The new view says it’s ok to ignore the overwhelming public interest as long as you can get away with it. That’s what we’ve been seeing this past session, and it amounts to the worst run Senate I’ve seen in my two decades in this body.

Mr. President, I know that many of my colleagues disagree on the merits of drilling in the refuge. But that’s really not what this is about. This is about keeping faith with our troops and preserving the integrity of the legislative process in this Senate. And I hope that no matter what my colleagues think about drilling, they will join me in opposing this underhanded attempt to hijack the Defense Appropriations Bill to give an early Christmas present to the oil companies.

5 Responses to “John Kerry’s Floor Statement on Inserting ANWR Drilling into Defense Appropriations Bill”

  1. Really wish he’d stop holding up McCain as any kind of beacon. He does it a lot, they’re friends, but McCain isn’t all that much a hero to the environment if you ask an Arizonan.

  2. Marjorie

    As much as I dislike McCain, he was on the money with that statement.

  3. I’m thinking ahead, of course, but McCain is a more recent convert. Maybe to offset really unfriendly Conservative policies.

    Mod GOP, a la Rockefeller, were always friendly towards the ernvironment and understood helping social programs, so I’m not across the board knee-jerk.

  4. bush is wrong again. slipping in drilling in alaska for oil is out of order. and checking on the emails is totaly nuts, and against the constitution on peoples privet liberties. he does anything he wants no matter who it hurts just so he can feel he can do whatever he wants.

  5. Lee, I do believe Bush takes childish glee at things he does truly reprehensible, just because he can.

    Thanks for stopping by…